Automation Enters All Areas of Agriculture

Here are eight examples of farm automation, from planting and irrigation to harvesting and farm management.

Rob Spiegel

June 27, 2024

3 Min Read
Automation in agriculture
GreenButterfly for iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

At a Glance

  • Automation shows considerable promise for reducing the impact of farming on climate change.
  • Next-generation farm technologies use a combination of sensors, analytics, robotics, and drones.
  • Automation can deliver significant value to both row- and specialty-crop growers.

Economic pressures and the push toward more-sustainable practices are driving next-generation automation technologies benefit farmers. According to the McKinsey report, Trends Driving Automation on the Farm, automation shows considerable promise for reducing the impact of farming on climate change and helping growers adapt to its financial impact. Autonomous farming solutions run a spectrum of varied levels of operator support. They range from semi-automated technology such as assisted steering to fully automated systems like weeding robots.

Next-generation technologies use a combination of sensors, analytics, robotics, and equipment to help farmers make smarter decisions on the field and do more with less. In addition, recent developments in generative AI present future opportunities to automate decision making using vast data sets that already exist.


Farming management software is also playing a role. Agriculture software can help farmers develop strategic plans about what inputs (fertilizer, crop protection, and seeds) to apply, at what times and at what rates. The goal is to support the farm’s profitability and sustainable practices. Automated technology can deliver significant value to both row- and specialty-crop growers. According to McKinsey, fully autonomous use cases across orchards and vineyards can deliver more than $400 per acre per year in value, doubling to quadrupling returns on farmers’ investment in automation.

As farm economics and sustainability continue to apply pressure on farmers, the adoption of automated technology will likely accelerate dramatically. Growers are beginning to realize the triple win that farm automation can represent: greater agricultural productivity and profits, improved farm safety, and advances toward environmental-sustainability goals.

Types of Farm Automation

Farm automation involves the use of technology to perform agricultural tasks with minimal human intervention, enhancing efficiency and productivity. Here are some types of farm automation:

Autonomous Tractors: Self-driving tractors that can plow, seed, and harvest without human intervention:


Drones: Used for monitoring crops, spraying pesticides, and gathering data on crop health:


GPS-Guided Equipment: Machinery equipped with GPS for precise planting, fertilizing, and harvesting:

Harvesting Robots: Robots designed to pick fruits and vegetables, reducing labor costs and increasing efficiency:

Weeding Robots: Automated systems that identify and remove weeds, minimizing the need for chemical herbicides:

Automated Irrigation Systems:

Automated Feeding Systems: Machines that dispense feed to livestock at scheduled times:

Farm Management Software: Platforms that integrate data from various sources to help farmers make informed decisions:

About the Author(s)

Rob Spiegel

Rob Spiegel serves as a senior editor for Design News. He started with Design News in 2002 as a freelancer and hired on full-time in 2011. He covers automation, manufacturing, 3D printing, robotics, AI, and more.

Prior to Design News, he worked as a senior editor for Electronic News and Ecommerce Business. He has contributed to a wide range of industrial technology publications, including Automation World, Supply Chain Management Review, and Logistics Management. He is the author of six books.

Before covering technology, Rob spent 10 years as publisher and owner of Chile Pepper Magazine, a national consumer food publication.

As well as writing for Design News, Rob also participates in IME shows, webinars, and ebooks.

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